Zucca, “A Secular Europe”

This year, the Oxford University Press will publish A Secular Europe (forthcoming May 2012) by Lorenzo Zucca (King’s College London).  The publisher’s description of the book follows.

How to accommodate diverse religious practices and laws within a secular framework is one of the most pressing and controversial problems facing contemporary European public order. In this provocative contribution to the subject, Lorenzo Zucca argues that traditional models of secularism, focusing on the relationship of state and church, are out-dated and that only by embracing a new picture of what secularism means can Europe move forward in the public reconciliation of its religious diversity.
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On the Uses of the Epigraph

“Should Federal Judges Cite the Bible as Authority for Constitutional Decisions?”  That is the question Professor Richard Pildes asks over at Balkinization.  The occasion for asking it is a concurrence by Judge Calabresi in Ognibene v. Parkes, decided by the Second Circuit earlier this year — a case about campaign finance and the First Amendment, in which Judge Calabresi criticizes the Citizens United decision.  In that concurrence, Judge Calabresi uses Luke 21:1-4 as an epigraph for his opinion.

I am not certain that I agree with Professor Pildes that this qualifies as reliance on the Bible as “authority” for a constitutional decision, at least unless the modifier “persuasive” is added.  But even “persuasive authority” is not quite right.  The body of Judge Calabresi’s concurrence discusses American constitutional caselaw alone, and it seems to me that this provides the “authority” for his opinion.  In his post, Prof. Pildes describes the use of the epigraph as providing “normative support” for Judge Calabresi’s views, and this seems closer, though also not exactly right.

I have always thought that epigraphs are not argument.  They are not even suggestions of argument.  Their function is to orient the reader obliquely toward a certain mood or manner of thinking.  In fact, the elegance of the epigraph consists exactly in refraining from doggedly hitting the reader over the head with argumentative authority.  “Authority” is hardly the point.

All the same, I found some of the thoughtful questions that Professor Pildes asks about the uses to which epigraphs with religious origins may be put, and by whom, and in what circumstances, and with what political valences, extremely interesting.

Blitt on the Secular Influence of the Russian Orthodox Church

Robert C. Blitt (University of Tennessee College of Law) has posted Whither Secular Bear: The Russian Orthodox Church’s Strengthening Influence on Russia’s Domestic and Foreign Policy. The abstract follows.

As 2012 presidential elections in Russia draw near, evidence points to a collapse in that country’s constitutional obligation of secularism and state-church separation. Although early signs of this phenomenon can be traced back to the Yeltsin era, the Putin and Medvedev presidencies have dealt a fatal blow to secular state policy manifested both at home and abroad, as well as to Russia’s constitutional human rights principles including nondiscrimination and equality of religious beliefs.
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Upcoming Lecture: Volf on Exclusivist Faith in a Pluralist World

The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College lists an upcoming lecture: Religious Exclusivism and Pluralism as a Political Project (Boston College, March 14, 2012, at 5:30 PM).  This lecture, by Miroslav Volf, professor at Yale Divinity School and founding director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, will explore the challenges of a world in which interfaith encounters are increasingly unavoidable.

It goes without saying that in the modern world—both within nations and in the global arena—persons of different religions encounter one another and interact, conduct politics, and do business more and more often, even as their beliefs express exclusive and universal validity.  How, asks Professor Volf, do we then co-exist constructively in a pluralistic society of exclusivist faiths?

Please read the Boisi Center’s abstract of Professor Volf’s lecture, as well as its biography of the professor, after the jump.  (Likewise, see this post on Volf’s recent book, A Public Faith, by CLR’s Professor Movsesian.) Read more